The Catchers

Spring training is for development. Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt hopes there is a lot of "developing" going on at wide receiver and tight end. Read about it inside in Part III of a pre-spring series.

After being able to gloat a little bit about the quality and depth he perceives on the offensive line as his squad races toward spring training, Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt was brought back to earth a skosh when discussing the available candidates at tight end and wide receiver.

"Our biggest area of concern on offense is at tight end," said Nutt. "We just don't have the numbers we need and our veteran - Ferbia Allen - has not gained the weight he needs to be as effective as he could be on this level."

Allen's situation is not football related or effort related. It's circumstance driven.

"Ferbia is burning the candle at both ends - trying to get his papers in on time, changing diapers, working on football and not eating right," Nutt explained. "This is where we really miss a chow hall. We have no way to monitor what they are eating and consequently guys like him are not gaining the weight we need them to.

"Ferbia should be in the 250-255 pound range by now, but because of his situation, he's down in the 225-230 range. He has time to get that up, but we've got to get him going in that direction and find a way to help him with his nutrition."

Allen, the starter a year ago, will be challenged by Z. Mason and Layton Jones.

"Z. is the best he's ever been right now. He's making a real push because he has improved his flexibility, he's a better athlete now and he's 270 pounds. I think he's going to have a good spring and we need him to desperately," said Nutt. "Layton is a solid guy who can play in spots and help on special teams. We have some walkons with potential, but they have to come on quickly in spring.

"The bottom line at tight end, though, is that we need Ferbia to start going back in the right direction with his weight, we need Z. to have a breakout spring and we badly need (JUCO signee) Jamal Mosley on campus as early as possible. Without those three ingredients, we have big concerns at tight end."

Wideout is just about as critical, as least as it relates to spring training.

"We put a lot of emphasis on recruiting wideouts because we knew what kind of shape we are going to be in this spring and next fall without a big infusion of new talent," noted Nutt. "We are very thin at wide receiver at this point as spring approaches."

In Nutt's mind, Ja-Mes Logan is his most dependable, and best, wideout at this juncture.

"Ja-Mes has been our steadiest guy and he had some good games from the middle of last year to the end. We expect him to keep coming," Houston said. "Melvin Harris could be very good. He broad jumps 11 feet, runs in the 4.4s in the 40 and gets you all excited.

"But we have to develop more trust in him so we can have him all season and he doesn't make some bad decisions off the field. He's been much better since his suspension. Not great, but much better. We need great, we are demanding great."

Spring will be very important for the next two who came to Nutt's mind - Vincent Sanders and Terrell Grant.

"Those two are why spring training is so critical. We need them to step up to another level," Nutt explained. "Vincent vertical jumped 38 1/2 inches. He's not a burner, but he's explosive. He has looked really good in the offseason. He's up to about 190 pounds and has done some really good things in the offseason. We need that to translate onto the field in spring and we believe strongly it will.

"There's not a guy on our team who looks better than Terrell in a uniform. He's 6-2, 215 and runs 4.4. He's been terrific in gym class (offseason), but he's got to show us on the field with the ball in his hands. All eyes are Vincent and Terrell."

Korvic Neat is another one Houston is hoping to gain more trust in during the spring.

"When we call your number, you have to produce. Korvic has ability, but he's got to pick up his production when he gets his shot," Nutt assessed. "Derrick Herman is a guy who needs to stay healthy. He looks good when he's running and has the ball in his hand. There's got to be a role for him.

"(JUCO transfer and return specialist) Philander Moore excites me. Mostly at punt return, but we are getting reports from the quarterbacks in volunteer throwing drills that he may be a plus at wideout too. We need him to be."

The enigma, so far, has been Alex Williams, who started out at linebacker, was moved to defensive end and has now landed at wide receiver.

"Alex is a 'tweener. He just got off of a hernia operation and looks really good. He's 230 pounds now, the most he's ever weighed, but is he a wideout or is he a tight end? We have to figure all that out in spring. He's another one I wish we could monitor his eating habits better.

"We've also been impressed in the offseason with walkon Jordan Holder. He's shown us some positive signs in his development."

Nutt sees potential at wide receiver, but he also knows he's got help on the way if that potential is not fulfilled in spring.

"Everything has to fall in place for these guys for the reasons we outlined," he closed. "The ace up our sleeve is that we signed some really good wideouts in Donte Moncrief, Snoop Brassell, Tobias Singleton and so on.

"We feel good about the future at wide receiver. We want to leave spring training feeling good about right now. That's our challenge and task."

Next Up: The Riflemen (quarterbacks).

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